Okay. I admit it. I’m stressed out. My upbeat, positive attitude has helped me to cope. But the quantity of major life events I’ve experienced this year has just about depleted the sunshine I’ve managed to set aside for dark and cloudy days.

In graduate school I remember reading studies about a stress scale that assigned points to various life events. The higher the score, the more likely you are to experience stress-related illness. Thanks to my friend, Google, I found the scale this morning and filled it out for myself. Click here to check your own stress level.

My score is a few points shy of 400. Scoring over 300 means I “have a high or very high risk of becoming ill in the near future.” Great–another 53 points. Like I don’t have enough going on in my life.

Fortunately, I’m doing all the right things. I exercise for at least thirty minutes five or six days a week, eat a healthy diet, and focus on the positive. Sleeping better would help, and I could exercise more. I have my bad days, but mostly I’m sticking to the healthy lifestyle I switched to more than a year ago.

This week I realized that my positivity does not extend across every aspect of my life. I’ve been especially negative about issues at work and problems with After Christmas Eve, my next novel. Awareness is half the solution. I’m on it and am working on reframing my attitude.

Having the house to myself since Thursday has been an opportunity to implement new routines. Instead of the fast food I tend to eat when I’m by myself, I’ve been eating salads and grilling turkey burgers. Rather than skipping exercise because nobody will know, I’ve doubled up and am trying to get back to a more consistent effort–especially with the strength training.

The issues with my next novel have lingered because I haven’t had a big enough block of time to tackle them.  Last weekend I went back to page one to work on revisions and got a good start, but ran out of time. To make sure that doesn’t happen this weekend, I took a vacation day Friday and have had my nose buried in the manuscript for going on three days.

I’ve added more than 5,000 words to the first fifteen chapters that hopefully fix the problems beta readers and my critique group have pointed out. So much has changed in the story that this week, rather than submitting the next chapters to my writers group, I started over again and submitted the first four chapters.  By late yesterday I’d revised the first 25 chapters but had to start reading from the beginning again to make sure the changes worked.

Up to now I’ve written forty chapters. Most are complete, but the last few are sketchy–just a couple of paragraphs. The story has gone to hell in the last ten chapters, with more loose ends than a badly braided pigtail. I won’t know for sure until I get to them with my revisions, but I believe the changes I made to early chapters will make it easier to tie all the characters and subplots together. If all goes well, I might finally figure out how this novel is going to end!

In other writing news, yesterday I got word that the cover artists had begun working on Until Thanksgiving. He wanted to know if photographs would be okay because there wasn’t anything about my novel that needed to be drawn and books with photographic covers tend to sell better. Fine with me–he’s the expert.

With stress, it’s not how much you’ve got but how you manage it that counts. I’m paying attention and trying to manage mine in positive ways. Focusing on After Christmas Eve has kept me from emailing friends and posting much on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t worry. I’m just under the Cone of Silence in a writing frenzy here in…

My Glass House

6 responses to “Stressed!”

  1. Michael, I’m sorry you’re so stressed out but as you pointed out you’re having some major changes.

    As for your manuscript–man, do I hear you! I’m glad you have the support from your critique group and I’m sure you’ll fix the problems in the end.

    On another note–did he really say photographic covers sell better? Errr, oops, I guess… I happen to LOVE drawn covers. 😉 I’m looking forward to see your cover!

    • Thanks, Chris. His comment was more about the fact my story didn’t require any drawn characters (like would be true with fantasy I suppose), and may have been specific to suspense/thrillers. Can’t wait to see what they come up with.

  2. (((((Hugs)))))

    It’s good that you’re talking about it though honey, getting it off your chest so to speak. Keeping the way you feel, bottled up inside is never a good thing, you end up like a champagne bottle…..and one day, you’ll just go bang! 🙁


  3. Plan on four revisions. –The first revision is for structural elements and basic mistakes of fact. Now is the time to write new scenes and reconfigure weak ones. Also consider major plot improvements. Deepen key scenes that must carry heavy freight. –The second revision is for pacing and macro-level things that you thought of on first pass but couldn’t stop for. Read with a merciless view to tightening. Reduce fat. But also: expand where too thin. –The third is for narrative style, spelling and style sheet consistency, formatting tweaks, and forming chapters (I often do this last, having written my novel in numbered scenes). –The fourth is for incorporating any useful suggestions from readers.

    • I got the equivalent of the first two edits you talk about via my critique group. Keeping my fingers crossed that they did such a good job, I’ll only have to go through one edit with my publisher before reviewing the galley proofs. FYI, your comments always show up in my spam folder–not sure what WordPress has against you lol